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How to Start Composting

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Composting is a natural biological process where organic materials like leftover food decompose into compost. Compost is rich in nutrients and ideal for using in the garden as a natural fertiliser. Follow our guide to help you start composting.

Step 1

Break Ground

Break Ground

Any pile of organic matter will eventually decompose, but a composter speeds up the process and is a cleaner, tidier alternative to an open compost pile. Site your composter on a level, well-drained area. You will aid the composting process by putting your bin in a sunny spot with some shelter to protect it from cold winds. Put the composter over soil or grass rather than concrete or tarmacadam, to take advantage of worms and beneficial microbes, which will migrate up and down as the seasons change. Using a fork, break up the ground directly under the composter; this will allow for drainage and help worms to penetrate the compost.

Step 2

Place Composter into Position

Place Composter into Position

Place the composter directly over the prepared patch of ground.

Step 3

What to Put in Your Composter

What to Put in Your Composter

Successful composting is like making a cake or better still, a lasagne – in layers. The recipe must be followed carefully or you will end up with a smelly slime, which although rich in nutrients is not pleasant to garden with. Don’t get too hung up on the exact recipe though as decomposition is a natural process and will happen anyway. Before adding anything to your composter ask yourself is it bio-degradable, will it contribute to a high quality, nutrient rich compost and is it free of any harmful chemicals, toxins, disease or other contaminants? If you are not sure the answer is yes to any of these questions, then it is better not to add it to your composter. The six essential ingredients for high quality compost are carbon which is provided by brown waste such as bark, straw, paper, and leaves, nitrogen from grass, microbes such as worms, water, oxygen and heat.

Step 4

Adding Ingredients

Adding Ingredients

Add a 6 inch layer of brown material to the bottom of the bin. Add a 2-3 inch layer of green material on top of this. Then add a 1 inch layer of soil and a sprinkle of water. Repeat until the compost bin is full. The carbon to nitrogen ratio is important for successful compost. The accepted normal ratio is two thirds brown to one third green waste. The most common cause of composting failure is to have too much green, usually grass clippings.

Step 5

Items to Avoid

Items to Avoid

All organic matter will eventually decompose but avoid citrus peel, melon peel, hard skins (e.g. avocado), eggshells (will decompose but take a long time), large fruit stones and pips, dog, cat, pig or human manure, weeds that are in seed, diseased plants and anything contaminated with pesticides, chemicals or toxins. Compost takes time to produce and is best made in one go. Avoid adding kitchen waste to the pile after you have started a batch, rather put it aside for the next batch. When the mixture turns brown, crumbly and slightly sweet smelling, the composting process is complete.